Category Archives: Articles

Wonderful Wordless Picture Books

Over at, Kathy’s sharing a wonderful article by early childhood educator Louise Rollins of Maryland/DC Hands & Voices. Though the article specifically addresses techniques for using wordless picture books with deaf and hard of hearing children, these ideas will benefit hearing children as well.  here’s a snippet:

Wordless picture books are excellent for helping your child understand the sequence of events in the story. During book sharing with a traditional book, a child sees part of the story in the picture and perhaps understands part of the story through the text that is read to her, then has to piece together a narrative from those two fractured elements, filling in the blanks on her own as she is able. Using a wordless picture book, your child can understand the events through the picture first, then learn from you the language that describes what she sees. This process helps develop your child’s story comprehension and build her vocabulary.

IMG_2946Because the pictures may be open to some interpretation, wordless picture books create an interactive reading experience where you and your child can discuss what you think is happening in the story. You can encourage your child to take on the role of narrator; even if your child cannot read print yet he can “read” these books independently or to you. Storytelling opportunities help your child practice organizing his thoughts, including sufficient information for his audience, and selecting relevant details. In other words, while practicing reading, your child is also practicing important writing skills, without even picking up a pencil.

When you read wordless picture books, you can modify your storytelling to use single words or shorter phrases. You might want to do this if your child does not yet understand longer strings of connected language, or is still developing his attention span. If you are learning to sign, you do not have to feel bound by the print and feel pressure if you don’t know every sign in the text. If you are learning to cue, you do not have to worry about cueing long passages at one time. Instead, you can focus on telling the story and enjoying book sharing with your child.

Read the entire article here.

More Wordless Picture Book Resources:

Louise Rollins’ Recommended Picture Books: Look for “wordless” in the book descriptions to narrow down your search.

Early Literacy Storytime: Wordless Books at Mel’s Desk

Sharing Wordless Picture Books from Reading Rockets (printable handout for parents)

Top 10 Wordless Picture Books from Children’s Books Guide

Why Wordless Books?: Article about sharing wordless books in the classroom by Leslie Ross-Degnan , M.Ed., and Christina Silvi, M.A at Earlychildhood News

Wonderful Wordless Picture Books at Storytime Standouts





Celebrate Deaf History with Clerc-Gallaudet Week, December 3-9

In December 1974, DC Public Library established Clerc-Gallaudet Week as a way of honoring the birthdays of Laurent Clerc and Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet (December 26, 1785 and December 10, 1787, respectively) and promoting library awareness in the deaf community and deaf awareness in the library community.

Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, a hearing minister from Connecticut, and Laurent Clerc, a deaf teacher from France, met by chance in 1815…but their partnership would found a school, plant the seeds of American Sign Language, and provide the foundation for both deaf education and Deaf Culture in the United States.

Read more about Clerc and Gallaudet’s inspiring story here.

Celebrate Clerc-Gallaudet Week in your library or classroom!

Share a picture book:

Share signs in a storytime rhyme or song:

Share an inspiring video:

Check out the Deaf Performing Artists Network page at for music videos designed for both Deaf and hearing audiences.  Our favorite kid-friendly and fun videos on the site:


Play a visual game:

For more games and classroom curriculum connections, see this article: Keep ‘Em Reading: Deaf History Month and ASL by Kathy MacMillan.


Little Hands and Big Hands coverLooking for even more rhymes, songs and crafts incorporating signs?  Check out Little Hands and Big Hands: Children and Adults Signing Together by Kathy MacMillan (Huron Street Press, 2013).



Brilliant Bean Bags

bean bagsBean bags may be some of the least appreciated storytime props – after all, they are easy to make, cheap to buy, and they can be used for so many different activities across a variety of age groups and storytime themes.    But that’s not all!  Bean bag activities also help children to:

  • develop directionality and orientation in space, which supports writing skills
  • improve self-control
  • develop  hand-eye coordination, an important early literacy skill
  • improve gross motor skills
  • understand the rhythm of language with their whole bodies

Here are some fun ideas for using bean bags in your programs, and links for more ideas!


1) Butterfly

On each line, move both hands from sides to up in the air above the head.  Each time your hands go above your head, pass the beanbag to the opposite hand.


In the sky

Flap your wings

And up you fly

Back and forth

To and fro

Up, up, and

Away you go!


2) Froggy Hop

(to the tune of “Here We Go ‘Round the Mulberry Bush”)

For baby and toddler storytimes: Give a bean bag to each caregiver and have them hop it on the baby’s toes, knees, etc. as described in the rhyme.

For older children: Follow the directions below to make this a balancing activity.

Froggy’s hopping on my toes, on my toes, on my toes (balance bean bag on toes)

Froggy’s hopping on my toes –

RIBBIT! (move bean bag to knee)

Froggy’s hopping on my knee…

Froggy’s hopping on my tummy…

Froggy’s hopping on my shoulder…

Froggy’s hopping on my head, on my head, on my head (balance bean bag on head)

Froggy’s hopping on my head –

RIBBIT! (make bean bag jump to floor)

He hopped away!


3) At the Circus

Place a masking tape line on the floor to act as a tight rope.  Invite the children to balance their beanbags on their heads as they walk across.  If they drop them, encourage them to pick them up and keep trying!

With my bean bag on my head,

I stand so very tall.

I walk along my own tightrope

And will not let it fall.


4) Cook Out

This is a fun bean bag activity for food or summer themed storytimes.  As a bonus, when you are moving the hamburger from hand to hand in the first part of the rhyme, you are also signing HAMBURGER in American Sign Language.  Click here to see a video of the sign.

(Hold bean bag in right hand.  Hold left hand facing up.  Turn right hand over to deposit bean bag into left palm.  Then turn both hands and repeat it the other way, as if you are shaping a hamburger patty.  Repeat this rhythmically through the first verse.)

I’m making a hamburger for the grill. 

Will I eat it?  Yes I will!


(Place bean bag on flat left palm.  Use your right hand as a spatula to lift the beanbag and flip it over.  Then switch hands.  Repeat this motion throughout verse 2.)

I’m flipping my hamburger on the grill.

Will I eat it?  Yes I will!


(Hold bean bag in left palm.  Pretend to squirt on ketchup, mustard, etc. with other hand.)

Now I’m fixing my hamburger from the grill.

Will I eat it?  Yes I will!


(Place bean bag in left hand.  Raise hand toward mouth, then down to right hand.  Switch the bean bag to the right hand and repeat.)

Now I’m eating my hamburger.  This is fun!

Did I eat it?  Yes, all done!

(If desired, sign ALL DONE at the end.  Click here for a video of the sign.)


5) Vacation

I went to the train station

To take a little vacation  (Pass bean bag back and forth between hands for the first 2 lines)

I went to the beach (Move bean bag diagonally away from you, starting at your right side, and ending up far out in front of your on you left side)

And then came home (Bring bean bag back to right side)

And had some relaxation. (Place bean bag into left hand)

 Repeat, replacing “the beach” with vacation destinations chosen by the children.  Each time you begin, you should be starting with the bean bag in the opposite hand from the previous time.  Make sure the diagonal cross-body movements also alternate hands between verses.  This simple motion of crossing the midline improves communication between the two hemispheres of the brain.


Got a great bean bag activity that you use in your programs?  Tell us about it in the comments below or by sending an email to and you’ll be entered into a drawing for a copy of our latest storytime resource book!


More Bean Bag Activities:

5 Reasons to Welcome Older Siblings in Your Baby and Toddler Storytimes

1) Older siblings are role models for babies.

According to a study published in New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development, siblings are even more influential role models than parents when it comes to everyday situations.  “We know that having a positive relationship with siblings is related to a whole host of better outcomes,” says Laurie Kramer, professor of applied family studies at the University of Illinois.  By welcoming older siblings and encouraging their relationships with babies and toddlers throughout storytime, we can foster positive relationships that impact the whole family.

2) Older siblings can help out!

Channel an older sibling’s energy by asking him to help pass out shaker eggs or hold a puppet in a story, and you’ve got an eager helper who is modeling cooperation skills for the little ones!  And here is the key – you’ve got to be prepared to guide them.  Just as parents don’t always know to sing along without encouragement, siblings don’t always know how to help out – but most of the time they are desperate to!  A little planning ahead and gentle guidance can go a long way.

3) You can model early literacy skills for the whole family.

When we model fingerplays, bounces, and story-sharing for parents, we are also teaching older siblings by example.  Encourage siblings to join in the fun and interact with their babies, with stuffed animals or dolls, or with you!  (Kathy often invites an older sibling to be her “bouncing buddy” during the lap-rhyme segment of her baby programs.)  Positive encouragement of sibling interaction with the little one in storytime will translate later into sharing of rhymes and stories in a spontaneous way at home.

 4) The presence of older siblings allows you to discuss and model coping skills for parents.

By welcoming older siblings into storytime, we open a space up for discussion of everyday practicalities – how do you select a story that will appeal to a one year old and a five year old?  How do you read to both at the same time? We can offer resources and strategies for incorporating early literacy into the real lives of families.  Many parents hold feelings of guilt that they are not doing all the things they think they should to promote their children’s language skills – especially when the demands of taking care of multiple children seem to take up every minute of the day.  By acknowledging the everyday challenges parents face, we can support more positive environments for all children.

5) Older siblings are an inescapable part of a baby’s world.

Babies and toddlers don’t exist in a vacuum.  Older siblings are a part of their world every day, and, as we saw above, can become their most powerful role models.  The reality of life for many families is that, if older siblings are not allowed in a program, no one will be able to attend.  While it might be nice to be able to offer a storytime that focuses with laser-accuracy on the developmental needs of one specific age group, the fact of the matter is that, even if you restrict your program to a narrow age range and disallow siblings, participants will still represent different stages of physical, cognitive, and emotional development.  Welcoming older siblings supports the development of babies and toddlers by supporting the family as a whole.

One last thought:

When you allow older siblings into your programs, is it with a welcoming attitude, or an impatient sigh?  (And we all know that kids can tell the difference!)  Perhaps what we need is a paradigm shift in the way we look at siblings in storytimes: not as a distraction or a potential problem, but as little helpers with the wonderful potential to be excellent role models for the babies and toddlers in their lives.

5 Fabulous Follow-Up Activities

What’s better than a great storytime book? How about a great storytime book followed by a great tie-in activity? Following up a story with related activities can reinforce vocabulary, concepts, and story structure and provide fun, active learning for little minds! Here are five of our favorites:

1) Pizza at Sally’s by Monica Wellington. New York: Dutton, 2006.

Sally and her cat bake up delicious pizza pies in their pizzeria. Follow up by passing out scarves to serve as pizza dough. Invite the kids to spin the “dough” in the air as they make their pizzas!

2) Raindrop Plop! by Wendy Cheyette Lewison. New York: Viking, 2004.

A little girl in a red raincoat counts her way up to ten and back again as she explores on a rainy day. Follow up by handing out water-filled eyedroppers or pipettes (both available cheaply at your local teacher supply store) and paper cups. Invite the children to “plop” the raindrops into the cups with you, counting as you go!  This is also a wonderful sensory activity for baby and toddler storytimes.

3) Thirsty Thursday by Phyllis Root. Somerville, MA: Candlewick, 2009.

In this story, Bonnie tickles a cloud with a feather to make it rain. Hand out craft feathers to all of the children and retell the story, having the children help Bonnie tickle the clouds. This helps children develop narrative and sequencing skills.

4) Wild About You by Judy Sierra. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2012.

Animals are waiting for the babies to arrive at the zoo, and when they do, the entire zoo takes care of them. Prior to storytime, hide some pictures of baby animals, or stuffed baby animals, throughout the room. After the story, go on a hunt to find the baby animals hidden around the room. If you used stuffed animals, have each child find one, then play a fun song and bounce the animals on a parachute. Try it with “Fifteen Animals” or “Jump Rope Jive” found on Philadelphia Chickens by Sandra Boynton (New York: Workman, 2002).

5) The Shape of My Heart by Mark Sperring. New York: Bloomsbury, 2012.

There are shapes all around us that represent different parts of our day and life. After reading this book, pass around shapes to the group and ask them to share their shape and what they think of when they see it. Shape ideas: heart, sun, vehicles, lips, various foods, shoes, feet, hands, animals, trees, flowers.

Programming Puzzler: How do you get kids to give back the cool stuff without crying?

We’ve all been there: you’ve just done a great storytime activity with scarves, shaker eggs, or instruments, and it’s time to collect those goodies – and someone doesn’t want to give it up. What do you do?

Readers respond with their ideas:

“After we use cool stuff in our storytimes (lapsit-family), singing this little ditty almost always works like magic in getting the kids to return the items (sans tears). We sing as we either offer the empty container up front, or bring it around to the kids. We can even fold up a parachute to this song. We model waving bye bye to the cool stuff as we sing, so the children can also wave!

(to the tune of “Good Night Ladies”)

Bye bye bells (shakers, sticks, maracas, etc.)

Bye bye bells

Bye bye bells

It’s time to let you go.

Then we follow up with an action song to immediately engage.”-Carla E.


“If the youngsters want the item, I let them keep it until the end of the program. At the end when they are leaving I trade it for something they can keep (often a toy that the parent has with them).”-Jill R.


Kathy and Christine say:

  • Above all, don’t panic or get flustered! Babies and young children look to adults to guide their own reactions, so if you make a big deal about their reluctance to part with the object, it’s likely to escalate the situation. Remember that parents often don’t know how to deal with the situation either (and are often embarrassed by their children making a scene), so an unflappable attitude from you will go a long way toward keeping everyone calm.
  • Make the giving back as much fun as the getting! Sing a special song, as in Carla’s suggestion above, or have the children hold their items over their heads as you zoom around the room like an airplane collecting them, while the kids make airplane noises. Or, as one workshop participant suggested, “make it go boom”. As each child puts his or her item in the box or basket, invite everyone to make a loud “boom” to celebrate it.
  • Move on to the next activity as quickly as possible. Even if someone is still upset, demonstrate your confidence in his or her ability to recover by immediately moving on to another fun book, song, or flannelboard. When adults show confidence in children’s resilience, it encourages children to have confidence in themselves.

Programming Puzzler: How do you get the word out about your programs?

We presented this puzzler to our readers.  Here’s a round-up of their ideas:

“We connected with a local churches and community groups that provide “welcome wagon” baskets to new families in town. We make sure that a copy of our library card brochure and programming flier goes in each basket.”-Sylvia Y.

“We deliver posters to interested groups in our community, including the senior center and local coffee shops.”-Chris C.

“We make sure our schools are aware of our programs and ask them to announce relevant programs in their parent email updates.”-JoAnn R.

Kathy and Christine say:

  • Don’t try to promote all programs equally – if you hype everything, that’s the same as hyping nothing! Choose a few special programs you want to highlight and focus on promoting those.
  • Take advantage of social media! Post upcoming programs on Facebook or Twitter a day or two before they will happen so people don’t forget all the wonderful programs you are offering.
  • Think about the audience you are targeting for each program and adjust your promotion accordingly. Parents of young children don’t get their information in the same places that middle schoolers do.
  • Find a newsworthy hook and involve the press! For example, early literacy is all over the news these days – why not develop a press release explaining how your storytimes support early literacy and send it to your local newspaper?
  • Network, network , network! Seek out connections with people in your community and find out what kind of programs they want from the library, and how they can help you get the word out to the people they work with every day. Despite (or maybe because of) our ever-increasing reliance on technology, we humans still trust recommendations from real people most.
  • Make sure you have a great product to promote! The best advertisement for a great program is the program itself – provide an experience that will keep parents and kids coming back for more.
  • Instead of preaching to the choir, draft them: Explain to your current storytime attendees that you need their help to get the word out about your programs. Pass out fliers for upcoming programs and ask each attendee to invite one person or family to come.

Bringing Nature Inside for Storytime

As children’s lives become more and more defined by technology, the effects can be far-reaching. Richard Louv describes it as “nature deficit disorder” in his book, Last Child in the Woods, which presents recent research showing that lack of experience with nature is linked to higher rates of obesity, attention disorders, and depression.

In addition, we all know that young children learn through their senses. So if you’re going to talk about an apple, a young child will only truly understand if he can see, touch, and maybe even taste that apple! Combat nature deficiency disorder and bring your storytime attendees and full-sensory experience with these idea for bring nature in:

1) Incorporate natural seasonal objects into a prop story.

For example, in our “Squirrely Squirrels” Storytime Theme, our original prop story, “Sammy Squirrel” uses acorns.

2) Choose a nature craft.

Make berry ink, just like the pioneers did! Find a simple recipe here.

3) Use natural props to bring a book to life.

For example, you could pass out real autumn leaves for kids to crinkle as you read an autumn book like The Leaves on the Trees by Thom Wiley. (Yes it might get messy, but that’s nothing that a vacuum cleaner can’t take care of!)

4) Explore nature through books.

Lindsay Barrett George has created a wonderful collection of books that explore nature. For a fall theme, check out, In the Woods: Who’s Been Here? As Cammy and William walk through the woods on an autumn afternoon, they find an empty nest, feathers and more, with each discovery prompting them to ask, “Who’s been here?” Use real natural objects throughout the story to simulate interest and understanding.

5) Set up a smelly scavenger hunt:

Follow up a book like Nosy Rosie by Holly Keller or Sammy Skunk’s Super Sniffer by Barbara DeRubertis by having kids use their noses to find aromatic natural objects hidden around the storytime room. (Some suggestions: a basil or rosemary plant, roses, oranges, cinnamon sticks.) See if the kids can identify the items by smell.

6) Try mud painting!

Check out this great site for ideas.

7) Take storytime outside!

If you’ve got a good place for it, take the kids outside for a nature walk, a story or a whole storytime! Make sure you plan lots of movement activities to keep kids engaged, as it’s harder for young children to pay attention to a book when there are so many novel sights competing for their attention.

Super Scarves: 7 New Ways to Use Them in Your Programs

Beyond peek-a-boo and freeze dances, what can you do with a scarf? Plenty!

1) Windy Days:

Perfect for weather or springtime storytimes, the activity encourages children to imitate the qualities of the wind with their scarves.  With or without music, ask the children to move their scarves as they would in a light wind, a medium wind, and a heavy wind. They can even be the wind and blow their scarves into the air! Ask older children to make two lines facing one another and wave their scarves at shoulder height, then have each child take a turn walking through the lines and experiencing the indoor “windy day”!

2) Kites:

Using the song “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” from the Mary Poppins soundtrack or the original song below, encourage children to fly their kites through the air.

“Kites Are Flying” (to the tune of “Frere Jacques”)

Kites are flying, kites are flying

In the sky, in the sky

See them in the springtime,

In the windy springtime

Kites fly by, kites fly by.

Blue kites flying, blue kites flying…

Red kites jumping, red kites jumping…

Yellow kites circling, yellow kites circling…

Green kites diving, green kites diving…

Orange kites turning, orange kites turning…

Purple kites wiggling, purple kites wiggling…

(Adjust color verses to the scarf colors you have; End by repeating first verse)

 3) Waves in the Ocean:

Pass out scarves and encourage the children to wave them at waist height to mimic the waves as you tell the story below.

Ocean Journey

We’re going on an ocean trip

We’re boarding a great big ship.

Se the tiny waves below

In the harbor rippling slow.

Now we’re leaving from the shore

And the waves are moving more.

Slow and steady, our ship goes past

But now the waves are getting fast.

Here comes a wind, the waves get bigger.

Will we make it, do you figure?

The ship is rocking to and fro

As higher and higher the waves go.

A storm is coming, see the clouds?

This is getting scary now!

The waves are huge! Big and rough!

I’m getting seasick! I’ve had enough!

But look! The sun is shining through.

The waves are growing calmer too.

They are still big, but getting slow.

Back and forth and to and fro.

Now we’re almost safe in port.

And the waves are getting short.

Little ripples in the water.

And we’ve arrived at the shore, just like we oughta.

The waves are waving, small and shy

So we wave too, and say goodbye!

4) Butterflies:

Make a beautiful butterfly using American Sign Language along with your scarf! First, hold both hands up facing away from you.  Then hook your scarf over one thumb. Next, cross your wrists. Now carefully turn your palms so that they face you. (Don’t drop the scarf!) Hook your thumbs together and wiggle your fingers and you’re signing “butterfly”! Play instrumental music or a freeze dance as the children make their butterflies fly around the room!

See a video of the sign BUTTERFLY.

5) Flag-waving Fun:

Have a Fourth of July Parade! Pass out scarves in red, white, and blue and play patriotic music as your storytimers march through the library! Make it a St. Patrick’s Day Parade by using green, white, and gold scarves.

6) Washcloths:

Read Dog’s Colorful Day by Emma Dodds and invite the children to “scrub” the colorful spots off the dog with their scarves when he takes his bath. Then invite everyone to scrub-a-dub with Bert and Ernie as you sing “Everybody Wash” from Splish Splash: Bath Time Fun.

Click here for a free flannelboard pattern for Dog’s Colorful Day, courtesy of artist Melanie Fitz.

7) Soup-Stirring Tissue:

Share Monkey Soup by Louis Sachar, and invite the children to “stir” the soup with their “tissues” (scarves). This book lends itself well to a flannelboard or prop story presentation.

Click here for a free flannelboard pattern for Monkey Soup, courtesy of artist Melanie Fitz.


Programming Puzzler: Successful School Age Programs

We asked our readers for their best school age programming ideas.  Here’s a roundup of their responses:

“In our little library in Scotland we don’t have enough staff to have a regular school age program, but we open up our regular pre-school storytimes (when school is not in session) to a wider age range, invite older siblings, insist that carers are present, then call them family storytime! The trick is to have a craft for older siblings to do while the ‘story’ part is happening. Then an easier craft for the younger ones and carers for after. Older siblings usually want to do the easy craft too, and help out the little ones at the same time. We have no storyroom, so staff can multitask and we don’t need so many staff to cover.” -The Library Quine (aka Janet), Loons and Quines @ Librarytime

“For the last 4 years I have presented a Gingerbread House making and stories for school aged children. Each child age 6 + (accompanied by an adult) makes a small graham cracker gingerbread house. We put together the walls, then we read a story (usually The Gingerbread Girl), then we put the roof on the house, then we read The Gingerbread Cowboy. This allows the walls and roof time to harden. After that the kids put all kinds of candy on their house to decorate. I provide coloring sheets and the icing recipe for families to take home. This is a fun program that families can come to together. Often we get both parents and several of their children who come and work on the houses together.” -Amie L.

Kathy and Christine say:

  • What’s playing at the movies? Is there a popular movie that was inspired by a book? Anytime there is a highly anticipated movie based on book, circulations for that book increase and people are often interested in any programming linked to it. The perfect time to offer a movie-based program is prior to the movie, when everyone is eagerly awaiting its release. Often you can find completed programming ideas on the internet.
  • How about a contest? School age kids love to show off what they know, so give them the opportunity, whether it’s a dance contest, “Library Idol”, a good old-fashioned spelling bee, or a trivia contest based on a favorite book or series. You just need to set up the rules and the room, and provide prizes and refreshments.
  • Let the kids be the program! Invite kids to sign up for a talent show at the library. Their friends and family will be sure to come – a built-in audience!